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The barricades that protect the surroundings of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, photographed on May 26, 2020
United States President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that Hong Kong could lose its status as a world financial center if a security plan is put into practice under study by the Chinese government, while authorities of the semi-autonomous territory tried to reassure to investors nervous about the matter.
It is “difficult to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial center if China takes complete control,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters, noting that the warning came directly from Trump, who declared himself dissatisfied. ” with the Beijing project.
Later, the US president himself told reporters this week he will send a “very interesting” response to China over the bill, but did not offer details.
Trump and immediate leaders have already threatened Beijing several times to withdraw the preferential trade status granted by Washington to Hong Kong.
Opponents and critics of the project fear it would undermine periodic elections, the free press and other fundamental civil rights that helped make Hong Kong an international financial capital that rivals New York and London.
The announcement of the new law, to be drafted by the Beijing central communist government bypassing the Hong Kong parliament, caused the biggest drop on the city’s stock exchange in five years on Friday.
The text proposes to ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” in Hong Kong, and Beijing has called for it to be “implemented without delay.”
– Hong Kong relativizes –
This bill will not affect the current system and is only for private purposes, said the head of the local executive, Carrie Lam, at the head of an executive fully aligned with Beijing.
According to the president, the concern about an alleged restriction of liberties is “totally unfounded”, in an attempt to reassure foreign investors and several western capitals concerned about the situation in the former British colony.
Lam assured the press that the bill “only targets a handful of criminals and protects the vast majority of residents who respect the law and love peace.”
This reaction after months of mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019, often violent, is also a response to the inability of local authorities to have this text approved, which had already sparked a protest in the territory in the past.
Lam stressed that anti-government protests would continue to be allowed if “they are carried out legally.”
China’s representative in Hong Kong, Xie Feng, had previously told foreign diplomats and businessmen that “there is absolutely no reason to panic” in the face of a law intended solely against “violent and terrorist forces.”
This law is seen by many Hong Kong citizens as the most serious violation to date of the “one country, two systems” principle, which allegedly guarantees Hong Kong unknown freedoms elsewhere in China until 2047.
From June to December, Hong Kong experienced its worst political crisis since its 1997 recession, with an unprecedented challenge to Chinese tutelage and Beijing’s interference. This movement was plagued by violent clashes with the riot forces.
– destabilize the nation –
Beijing did not stop presenting these protests as a foreign-supported plot to destabilize the nation.
For their part, supporters of democracy affirm that the street was the only means of making themselves heard without universal suffrage.
After a long hiatus due to the coronavirus epidemic, thousands of people protested again on Sunday in response to the security bill.
The exact text of the bill is unknown, but the Chinese parliament laid out its broad lines last week and should, in principle, approve it by Thursday to take effect in the course of the boreal summer.
But in an interview with . on Tuesday, Elsie Leung, the former attorney general, said activities that seek to undermine the local government could be covered by law.
“I don’t think chanting the slogan itself is that important, but when chanting chants is coupled with other behavior, that could amount to subversion …,” he said.
One cause for concern is the provision that would allow Chinese police officers to operate in Hong Kong, whose justice is supposed to be independent.
Many see it as a risk of repression against dissent, as anti-subversion laws are frequently used in China against critics of the regime.
The commander of the Chinese military force operating in Hong Kong warned that this law will allow “punishing any act of separatism.”
In the coming days, new mobilizations are planned in the semi-autonomous territory despite the prohibitions on assembly.